Childhood Cancer

Childhood Leukemia

Chapter 16: Stem Cell Transplantation

“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”

— John Wayne

STEM CELL TRANSPLANTATION (SCT) is a complicated procedure used to treat some children with leukemia. For this treatment, stem cells are collected from a donor’s bone marrow, blood stream, or from umbilical cord blood. The child with leukemia is then given high-dose chemotherapy and sometimes radiation to kill as many cancer cells as possible. After these treatments, stem cells collected from the donor are infused into the child’s central venous catheter (e.g., Hickman® or PICC). The stem cells migrate to the cavities inside the bones where new, healthy blood cells are then produced.

SCTs are expensive, technically complex, and potentially life-threatening. Understanding the procedure and its ramifications at a time of crisis can be very difficult, so this chapter offer parents information to help them make an informed decision. This chapter explains the types of SCT currently used to treat some children with leukemia, and it shares the experiences of several families.